Categotry Archives: The Murder Plague

FP448 – The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 2 of 2

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and forty-eight.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 2 of 2

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3
(Part 1 - Part 2)
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites!

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age - three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we return to Capital City where Harm Carter, father and former military man, has been contending with the homicidal paranoia inducing illness that is The Murder Plague.

 

The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 2 of 2

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

I awoke to a conversation that went something like:

“Told you it was worth waiting.”

“Easy for you to say, I was the one leaking fluids while lying across the road in the middle of a war zone.”

“He came didn’t he?”

The chatter wasn’t what struck me first, however. Of note was: 1) I was in a moving vehicle. 2) There were street lights rolling past the windows.

It’d been weeks since I’d seen electric illumination beyond the glare of my flashlight and the occasional glow giving away some poor fool’s hiding spot. That sort of luxury was simply one of those things that had slipped away with the rest of the civilized world.

My hands had been zip-tied together, as had my feet, and I appeared to be laying on a bench seat in the back of a Prowler car - you know, the silent little electric-buggies that Rambo used in First Blood Part 10 to sneak into the Jihadi base.

If the female voice complaining about leakage was Jennifer Galt - Ms. Atlas - then, I assumed, the smart-mouthed guy behind the wheel must have been the fellow the press referred to as “Head.”

Noticing that I was shifting around in search of a comfortable position, he asked, “Are you lucid enough for questions? Because I've been wondering: Can you really call it a "war zone"? I mean, sure, there are a lot of the elements - gunplay, occasional explosions, loose body parts floating around - but it’s really all one-on-one. Don’t you need two or more semi-organized forces to really call it a war? Isn’t it really more the case that the East Coast is one massive crime scene?”

And that's when I realized, strangely, that I hadn’t considered killing either of them since opening my eyes. I really was lucid.

“I’m cured?” I said, and even before they answered “Yes.” I began to cry.

It soon became obvious I was on the far side of the military barricade across the Lethe River, somewhere within the infamous Buffer Zone where anyone not wearing a uniform was likely to be shot on sight. We stopped at a makeshift command tent that had been set up on the lawn of an evacuated suburban McMansion. It looked to have been built from the same cookie cutter mold that created the neighbourhood I’d been hiding in: White siding and faux-brick exterior, two car garage, grass that hadn’t seen watering since the apocalypse had begun.

FP448 - The Murder Plague: TurnaboutLong story short, they’d been looking for me since the incident with the armoured personnel carrier, some weeks previous. I’d been on the cusp of infection at that point and hadn’t thought much of the military since. Apparently they’d been thinking of me, however, as Atlas - Jennifer - explained.

“Right now there’s only a few dozen doses of the cure, so we need to use them strategically. The problem of course, was how? Who is higher priority than who? But once the word got back that someone had spotted Harm Carter, gore soaked hero of the zombie war - likely the third most important figure in solving that whole shambling mess - command got excited; and who better to go fetch him than an old pal from his tin can days?”

I slept then, because I knew I’d need it, and because you’re never really resting when you suspect every shadow of containing a rabid knifeman.

It was clear by the gentle tones of the medical staff, the gurney they lowered me onto, and the way they left me mostly alone in a tent full of high-powered drugs, that they thought I was going to be an invalid for a few days. You can always tell when such undertakings are considered serious business when the practitioners strip you of your pants.

I’ll admit to doing very little to dissuade them of that notion, though I worked hard to keep my blankets pulled up and my hospital-style robe closed.

The next morning Atlas, Head, and the two Brits newscasters call The Lovesick Twins came through with a gruff old man whose name I didn’t recognize but whose rank was apparent despite his lack of insignia.

They wanted to know everything I could teach about the nature of the plague; how I’d survived, the sort of resistance I’d met, and any hints I might have as to how not to be shot, stabbed, or blown-up while attempting to distribute the vaccine.

Though cured of Hitchcock's, I’ll admit a few of the reflexes lingered. During story time, which lasted most of the daylight hours, I managed to glean that I was not only cured, but was also now immune. I learned that the whole world hadn’t fallen - outbreaks were being fought abroad and on our own soil, but that the need for bodily fluid exchange had slowed the march enough to set up holding lines.

My deposition remains classified, but, if I’m honest, it was essentially everything I’ve told you up till now anyhow.

They recorded my explanation, asked questions here and there to clarify, then left my poor broken self to recoup.

“Need anything?” Jennifer had asked as they departed, and that’s when I put in a request for pants.

It’s funny, up until that point I hadn’t really known if I was going to carry out my plan or not. Was I being foolish? Had the disease cast some shadow across my brain they had not considered in their medical diagnosis?

No. I was just a fellow who’d been left in a particularly valuable tent, a man who had things to accomplish, a man who had just been gifted a pair of ill-fitting slacks.

When I was finally alone with the hushed beeping of my equipment, I stood. There was enough slack in the cords running to the various monitors that I could maneuver a bit about the room, and I was left to prod through the carrying case they’d left so carelessly on the folding table where the doctors also wrote up my reports.

I wasn’t greedy: There were eight vials within, each labelled as one dose. I only took two, a handful of syringes, and a black plastic garbage bag in which I could wrap the whole package. I taped it all to my chest with surgical tape, then I took a peek through the flaps.

Spotlights roamed the streets beyond the perimeter. The rattle of dinner plates and hungry conversation drifted from another temporary structure a few lawns down.

That’s when I flipped off the switches, pulled away the sensors, and crept out to the silent prowler, parked not far from where I’d lain.

My daughter was out there. Becky was of no strategic value to anyone, Becky had no history or connections to swoop in. Who would save her if not one of the gore soaked heroes of the zombie war?

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com - but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

- and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP447 – The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 1 of 2

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and forty-seven.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 1 of 2

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3
(Part 1 - Part 2)
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites!

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age - three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we return to Capital City where Harm Carter, father and former military man, has been contending with the homicidal paranoia inducing illness that is The Murder Plague.

 

The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 1 of 2

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

Here’s the thing about Hitchcock’s. Even as an incredibly sick, sometimes feverish, death-dispensing maniac, you are absolutely convinced that you are the only person on this planet-sized carousel who truly has their situation under control.

You’re hiding in an attic, and you’ve got scraps of paper pinned up on every surface. You spend your days with a flashlight - red filtered, as looted from the home of the dead or fled survivalist down the road - scanning the sheets of paper you’ve pinned to the insulation and roof beams. You’re using the red filter because it’s less noticeable than a white glow, despite the fact that it’s broad daylight outside and there are no windows in your attic.

You trace and retrace the colour-coded dots and scratches you’ve drawn, with pencils stolen from an abandoned school bag, and though the mess of lines and circles has begun to blur and smudge, though the heat has you sweating like a drug mule getting ready for an intercontinental flight, though you keep chuckling to no one but yourself, you feel like the king.

No one, you convince yourself, will ever break the code you’ve used to map out your routes, caches, and traps. No one, surely, could ever come up with such a clever system without leaving a hint or trail. No one is as smart, as careful, as PREPARED, as you are.

At night the only thing you hold closer than the section of map you’ll need for that evening’s expedition is the handgun you plan on using to defend your secrets.

Jokes on you, of course, because the neighbourhood you consider your kingdom is infested with plenty of other fools who also think they’re royalty.

Sometimes the attacks are straight forward, and your survival, if you could admit it to yourself, is just luck. A gunshot rings out and you tell yourself you’ve escaped unharmed because you’re too fast to hit. A large woman with a machete and silent feet does her best Queen of Hearts imitation, and you tell yourself you’ve avoided the grave by knowing to bring a gun to a knife fight. Invaders break into your sanctuary while you are away, and you convince yourself that you’ve defeated the ambush they set by having left semi-hidden rat-poisoned food about the lower floors - and never mind that they might have waited till safely home to snack.

At some point, just before another dateless dawn, you’re almost done scratching Xs across the hand drawn chart of places you’ve cleared out for supplies, and, as you’re tugging at a garage door in search of gasoline or sharp-edged tools, you nearly get taken out by a log trap. A dozen trees, which you’ll later realized were stripped from a local schoolyard before being piled high in the quiet darkness, come rolling at you, and you damn near have your knees snapped backwards and your rib cage trampled by tumbling pines before you can leap left. Lobbing a Molotov onto the roof you wait till the attempted murderer stumbles from his haven and you end the wannabe Boy Scout with your pistol. You don’t think twice about having slain a frumpy man in a Star Wars t-shirt and thick-rimmed glasses. You don’t think twice about the pencil smudges on his fingers. You don’t think twice about the red-filtered flashlight he happens to be carrying.

You simply collect what you can use, shrug at the death of another challenger to the crown, and move on.

I - I simply collect what I can use. I simply shrug at the death of another challenger to the crown. I move on.

In the end the hardest aspect of the Murder Plague is not dealing with the corpses, traps, and scenes of violence, it’s in knowing that it was not some other carrying out these actions. I was not some passive observer staring at my hands as they locked around a stranger’s neck. It’s your fingers, your palms, your squeezing and struggling against the final jerks and snorts and twitches - but you have no control.

FP447 - The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 1 of 2Maybe a week and a half after nearly being rolled flat like the Pillsbury Doughboy cornered by the Swedish Chef, I was creeping along one of the zig-zag paths I used to return to my shelter when I caught sight of something unusual: A dog barking.

Oh, my paranoia about the feral packs roaming the neighbourhood was already long standing - Were they being trained and controlled by someone else? Would they rush me for my supplies? Could the plague itself affect them? - but generally we’d had an understanding familiar to elevator passengers in a more civilized time: I pretended they didn’t exist, and they pretended I didn’t either.

The thing was, this mutt, a little Yorkshire Terrier that could have used a bath and a seven course meal, was yapping and yapping and yapping at the red door across the street. Now, it was a very quiet time. The sound of gunfire was increasingly distant, probably due to a decreasing population of people to shoot at, and the car engines were rare. There were no songs wafting through the air from a distant block, there were no trash talkers playing basketball on some other street, there were no couples arguing about dinner, the kids, or the bills. Any noise could get you killed, so every noise was suspect.

Yet here was this pooch yammering his heart out.

Given how many real humans I ended in my haze, it’s still strange that I’m struck by shame when I admit that I almost killed him. I was worried about his drawing attention, and my infected mind was so survival focused that it was already formulating the argument that I could use the extra meat.

Never mind that I had six months worth of cans already stacked in the attic, and another couple years’ worth scattered in holes at all corners of my hand-sketched map.

I stepped forward and reached into my right pocket for my tanto-bladed pocket knife. I raised my boot with the intention of pinning the fur ball down beneath the thick sole while I conducted my butchery.

The red door flew open and a bloody one-person SWAT team burst through the opening. The dog sprinted away under the gate to my right and my pistol was in my grip before I even had both feet back on the ground. This wasn’t just some slovenly gun fetishist buying equipment online before the collapse, however: I knew this armour. This wasn’t some hillbilly in a gas mask, this was someone who’d been bestowed the tinted bubble helmet and face mask the military had developed to deal with improvised explosives and ravenous undead.

I got one shot off, which landed with a flat thwack and little other effect, but the mountain of black tactical gear had breached the exit with a taser at the ready. They offered a shocking response.

My fire had nudged their aim, at least, and the electrodes landed askew on my looted rambler jacket. The first jolt hit just as I was peeling the thing off, and fight lost the battle to flight: I was halfway to the corner before my assailant had even tossed down their weapon.

What followed was something like a magic trick.

In my boot wearing days I was not entirely unfamiliar with such gear. More than once I’d had to wade through unpleasant business in a similar too-hot, too-heavy, and too-constricting style of getup. Even with the extra years under my belt I should’ve easily been able to outrace that younger version of myself.

I was aiming for the little blue house at the end of the street. I knew if I could make it that far - theoretically easy-peasy, given the clunky nature of my pursuer - that I’d probably be okay.

Putting a curb-parked soccer mom minivan between myself and the newcomer, just in the off chance that they should decide on a more lethal means of dealing with the situation, I turned my head to see how big a lead I’d widened up. I had maybe a hundred feet of pavement and fifteen feet of dying lawn to cover till I was safely away, and that’s when the miracle happened.

My pursuer dropped one foot at normal speed, then the second at twice that, and was suddenly up to a Corvette’s sprint. Somehow I doubled my own pace, but it damn near wasn’t enough.

As I cleared my objective’s white picket barricade my stalker scaled the hood of the van and left a trail of divots along the roof, and as I gulped a final breath of air and turned the door handle, my hunter went directly through the fence.

I slammed the entrance behind me and hustled to the sliding patio exit at the home’s rear.

It’s likely that not knowing what was beyond the closed entrance, while chasing a homicidally infected maniac through a largely abandoned neighbourhood, was enough to give the incredibly nimble hulk a second of pause, and that’s the only reason I had time to get clear and draw my lighter.

I’d been carrying that damned sparkler for weeks - just the usual sort of kids’ cake topper - but my fingers were so slick with sweat I damn near dropped the zippo.

Then it was lit, and I could hear the door on the far side of the building being kicked open, and I tossed my tiny pyrotechnic display.

The gas oven, unlit but otherwise fully engaged, had done its work well, and the resulting explosion was enough to finish my climb over the back fence.

When I returned to a vague sort of sensibility I stood. If there was anything left of my foe it would be worth scavenging: Especially if I could manage to get the blood off of that armour.

I was too clever to rush in, however. I hunkered down, listening and waiting. What if the intruder had survived somehow? What if the explosion and subsequent fire attracted an inquisitive local? If the riot squad really was dead then whatever kit they’d been carrying wasn’t going anywhere, and it was rare that such tempting bait presented itself to help flush out my neighbours.

As dusk hit, and the house’s embers guttered in its former basements’ rec room, I crept onto the street. There seemed to be nothing but me, the crickets, and the distant barking of a triumphant mutt who’d either found an un-spilled garbage can or the fresh remains of some unfortunate Capital City citizen.

Of course, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, one of the problems with paranoia is that it’s never the things you could possible have calculated for that will get you. A man can spend his life in a Faraday cage to prevent death by cellphone radiation, but it’ll inevitably be the spouse whose sick of his lifestyle who buries him with a butcher blade in his back.

I mean, when I approached “the body” it was still sprawled out on the road pavement, where it had apparently landed on its back. It’s left leg was missing - well, missing isn’t the proper word perhaps, as a kevlar-wrapped chunk had clearly landed across the picket fence. I suspect the door must have sheared it off and tossed it in a different direction than the rest of the meat.

All that to say: The limb was thoroughly unattached, which is why, I’m sure you can see, I assumed that my victim, who had apparently been lying unmoving for at least two hours, was dead.

She let me get as far as the helmet, and then her eyes popped open.

I said “Jennifer?” and that’s when Ms. Atlas, current member of TV’s The Irregular Division and former comrade-at-arms, hit me.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com - but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

- and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP410 – The Murder Plague: Recoil

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and ten.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Murder Plague: Recoil

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Forum

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age - three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we attempt to survive another encounter on the streets of Capital City alongside our hero, Harm Carter, a victim of the homicidal paranoia that infects the city’s inhabitants.

 

The Murder Plague: Recoil

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

Let’s talk, for a moment, about gunfights - and, more specifically, about gunfights at a time when a solid portion of the population has been infected in such a way as to think they’re the new Gary Cooper in town.

In my more adventurous years, as a young man on foreign soil, I’d occasionally found myself firing the rifles Uncle Sam kept handing me. I have never been a master shot, but, honestly, the technique we employed in dispensing ammunition across the countryside was often more a matter of statistics than precision.

All that to say: Even before Hitchcock’s disease convinced every grandmother to hide a revolver in her purse and every Saturday hunter that he should find a bell tower to climb, I’d already survived the lottery that is the high-velocity exchange of projectiles on more than one occasion.

Even then, I recall, a week or two into my own madness, encountering a darkened baseball diamond. Nothing overwrought, just a neighourhood lot with a chain-link backstop, two benches, a plywood concession stand, and a playground set off to the side to keep the local softball team’s kids entertained while they were swinging bats.

A cargo truck had been stationed in the outfield, and a tall-legged canvas tent had collapsed onto second base. Bottles of water waited on open palettes, and a stack of folding chairs sat, un-deployed, not far from the vehicle.

The scene rang of an aborted attempt at a governmental emergency response. Perhaps they’d tried setting up an evacuation point - I couldn’t tell what had happened to disappear all involved, but there was definitely a feeling as if the hulking rig had been vacated with haste, like a landlocked Mary Celeste.

Flash Pulp's The Murder Plague: A Science Fiction Fantasy PodcastIn search of supplies, I’d been crawling along the garden path between a two-car garage and a bungalow that’d had every one of its windows thoroughly shattered. I remember thinking the fluttering of the lace curtains blown through the living room’s missing bay window quite beautiful as I sat watching for any movement in, or across from, the park.

Feeding yourself when all is paranoia is a tricky matter. I’d spent the previous weeks stepping into booby traps, and there was no greater bait than the rations I suspected were abandoned to the feral grass.

Still, my stomach’s rumbling was a persuasive counter-argument, so the debate lasted a surprising while.

An hour into my vigil a cloud bank fought the moon for dominance of the sky, and my brain chemistry shifted from wait to run. Stooping low, I sprinted, full-tilt, from my location to the shelter of the metal bumpers lining the diamond’s car-less gravel lot, then along the wooden outfield fence and into the relief camp’s shadow.

From that distance I could see more signs of sudden passage - papers spread around the disordered turf and medical paraphernalia toppled near the thick rubber tires - but I could also make out the flat brown packaging that indicated a stack of MREs in the rear of the flatbed.

Things were going really well until I stepped onto the back of the truck.

The two-story houses on the far side of home plate all looked to have been picked from the same catalogue. Most were undamaged, and each one sported equally dark windows and closed garages at the end of paved driveways.

From the second floor of the third home from the right, however, a blinking light of death took to looking for me. Someone was waving a silenced automatic weapon in my direction.

Muzzle flash wasn’t my only sign of danger, though: The exploding bottles of water to my right were also a pretty good indication. I went over the truck’s side backwards, like a Navy diver enters the drink, but I landed like a drunken albatross in high wind.

Yet there was no chance to complain about my injured spine, as the winking flare was already busy conducting heavy duty body-work on the Army’s chariot.

Now, I wasn’t without my own means, but I was as well off chucking rocks at that distance as I was using a pistol. That did not stop me, however, from pulling my automatic from its pocket and making the first noises of the night.

At the least, I figured some excitement in the shooter’s direction would do little to steady their aim.

While throwing away my bullets, I ran. I hustled past the guest team’s bench, the surface splintering under the flicker, and made a dive for the concession stand.

There was definitely a proper door to the shack, but it was around back and I didn’t have the time. Instead, I plunged head long into the large hinged flap that would normally be pinned up to indicate the stand was open for business, hoping all the while that it wasn’t locked.

It was definitely locked.

The panic in my feet was such, though, that it didn’t really matter. The spinning slats of wood they rotated into place to hold the sheet down snapped under my impact, and the hatch gave way far enough to deposit me firmly on the cement slab that made up the floor.

There were two people already sheltering inside.

The man was maybe twenty-five. His hair had been close-cropped at some point, but it’d been quite a while since he’d seen a razor. He was dressed in jeans and a dark blue t-shirt, but I could have easily pictured him in a uniform before the collapse set in. She was maybe eighteen, wearing black stretch pants, a thick gray sweater, and a ponytail that seemed to bounce in defiance of the misery around her.

When I think on that moment I’m always slightly relieved I didn’t kill them, but, honestly, if I hadn’t emptied my weapon ahead of my arrival I’d likely have done exactly what the disease insisted.

They ran then, out the door I hadn’t used. There was a half eaten sandwich on the ground, a small guttering candle, and a harness with three grenades strung across it.

I didn’t wonder, then, how the pair had managed to stick together without murdering each other. I did wonder how anyone could possibly forget such useful equipment when departing, but I was too far distant from ordinary human perspective to understand that sort of surprise anymore.

Whatever the case, I stopped consideration of the matter twenty feet into their escape, when the fellow’s head blossomed three red stitches.

The woman did not pause, but she did scream as she doubled her speed and disappeared between a white Escalade and a maroon Mini Cooper across the way.

There must have been more twinkling from the second floor rifleman, as the SUV’s rear window shattered, but the block settled into silence once the runner was safely in the shadows.

I was left to wait and consider.

It’s hard to know where my will to survive stopped and the disease began. I obsessed about the grenades - how I might use them to defeat the deadly light blinking in the distance - but, the truth was, there was no hope I could cover the ground and remain free of some copper and lead marbling. My logical mind won that argument at least.

My brain worked every corner, rattling every scrap of material I had at hand, but there’s the reality of combat in a nutshell: It’s good to be fast, and it’s good to be accurate, but it’s not always enough.

In the end the madness decided on making a run for the truck. I can see now that I would have been just as dead as the t-shirted lad no further than ten yards from my shelter, but there was a strange commonality between the Murder Plague and being a contestant on Jeopardy. Tension makes the solution harder to see, and there is a constant need to do something. Sometimes that meant anything.

Loading another clip into my marble thrower, I did my best to steady my hand, and stood.

As I’ve said, there’s too much randomness in a firefight for my liking, but there are some rules that seem to hold. One is that chucking bullets will lead to bullets being chucked back at you. This scales all the way from a small bank robbery to the invasion of a Middle Eastern nation. If you’re going to do unto others you either have to massacre them all or accept the same kindness.

Even as I pulled back the hatch and let fly with my peashooter, the blinking became a brief nova, then portions of shredded flower-print curtain and beige house-siding began to rain across the lawn.

Deciding that was the perfect time to shop, I beelined to the brown bags, grabbed a double armful, and made for the same garden path that’d brought me there.

I’m glad I never came across the girl again. I suspect - no, I believe - that she acted out of revenge, meaning she wasn’t sick but a simple, angry, innocent. I’m also not sure I would have survived a second encounter: Even sane she’d thought to do what her lover hadn’t, bring some grenades.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com - but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

- and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP355 – The Murder Plague: Rat

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and fifty-five.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Murder Plague: Rat

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age - three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Harm Carter discovers an unexpected labyrinth lurking in the basement.

 

The Murder Plague: Rat

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

Once infected I wasn’t just another homicidal maniac - no, I was an incredibly well trained homicidal maniac.

The poor buggers around me had quite a problem on their hands.

Take for instance the woman in the maple-brown house, two blocks to the east, who’d turned her basement into a rat’s nest of chicken wire tunnels.

I’d stumbled across the thing after finding nothing more than crumbs and well wishes in her pantry. Now you must keep in mind that, till that point, the dwelling presented like any other of its abandoned neighbours. Upper-middle class. Slightly dusty. Echoing and full of pictures of people I didn’t know. The hardwood floors and caramel-toned walls showed no signs of violence - simply disuse - so I pushed on towards the basement in the hopes of finding a forgotten gun rack or emergency kit.

The Murder PlagueSuch wishful thinking ended on the stairs, however. You couldn’t even reach the bottom of the wooden steps without being forced to your hands and knees to descend any further. From my position at the mouth I could see that the opening was no more than three feet high, and that the route seemed to branch right at an upturned Christmas tree some twenty paces in.

There was also a stink I was too familiar with, the nose-fillingly sweet smell of human decomposition.

I did not relish, nor consider, the idea of plunging, face first, into that tangle of garbage and required tetanus shots - until I spotted the assault rifle.

It was some hobbyist’s heirloom, an AR-15 that had been so extensively modified it would have allowed a toddler to take out a police station. I almost missed it in the darkness of the tunnel, as it was leaned into a corner formed by a blue filing cabinet repurposed as a supporting beam. It appeared as if it had been laid out to be easily snatched by someone approaching from deeper within, but not to be seen by anyone at the entrance.

In fact, it looked as if the rifle would have been entirely hidden had it not had slid slightly from its resting place.

The picture stood clearly before me: The house, quiet and truly abandoned above; the gun, so close and so damnably handy to have when everyone is trying to murder you, (or, frankly, when you’re trying to murder everyone,) and that syrupy decay-stench that you convince yourself no one could live with, so it must be the homeowner dead and rotting in a distant branch of his or her human-sized ant colony.

Would a desperate accountant in a three-piece suit have ignored the fire of paranoia in his brain and crept in, believing he was clever to have pulled together the puzzle pieces? I think so. It’s what I’ve heard the psych people call a loss proposition: Like a raccoon with their hand in a vending machine, we’re wired to refuse to let go of anything we believe we have a grip on.

I did not, however, duck down. I did not even harumph.

I simply backed away on feet as sneaky as I could make them.

I haven’t read any studies, but my feeling is that those in uniform are less likely to buy scratch tickets. Training and hard experience had taught me that when it seems as if the stars have aligned before you it’s highly likely that you’ve actually just noted the imminent approach of a train.

Fear pushed her to finally say something. It was the only thing that ever pushed us.

It wasn’t much of a ploy though.

“Help?” she whimpered, “I’m stuck under a fallen pile of paint cans. I promise. Please help?

“Please?”

The density of the steel loops and carpet samples and newspaper walls made her sound like a lonely ghost at the bottom of a well.

I could have walked away, of course - simply avoided the house in the future - but, for all my talk of training, I was as sick as the rest,and I’d also been taught not to ignore a problem when you have a solution at hand.

She started shrieking when I shattered a side window and began flooding a window well with her garden hose, but the nest of wire protruded right up to the glass. I assume somewhere in that dank hole there was at least one drain, but it was quickly clogged by trash.

I spent the remainder of the day lurking at the top of the stairs, but I guess fear held her till the very end. As far as I know the AR-15 drowned with her.

There are nights, though, when I wake fighting the dead weight of paint cans on my legs and an ever increasing tide of water on my chicken-wire bound face.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

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